This Week in Lincoln County – September 18, 2017

This week’s message is coming to you from my basement PC. Sharing computer usage with two, college-bound, high school seniors sometimes relegates Dad to the old PC with the screen not much larger than a sheet of notebook paper. With my reading glasses in hand, here goes.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• If you travel Highway 61 between Troy and Wentzville, please take some time Wednesday September 20, 2017, between 4:30-6:00 to stop by the Troy 9th Grade Center in Moscow Mills to express your support for the improvements that are planned for this dangerous corridor. Among the improvements are guard cable from Wentzville to Troy and closure of several at-grade median crossings in that same area. Safety improvements often come at the expense of convenience, but I will gladly sacrifice a little more drive time if it will curb the accident rate in this area. Statistically speaking, installation of the guard cable and elimination of the crossings will make 61 a safer route the moment the work is complete. Many people have put a lot of effort into getting these projects to this point, and it will be a travesty if Lincoln County does not show up and vocally support these badly needed measures. The lives these measures save may be yours and that of your loved ones. Please join us.
• While it is easy to focus only on the attraction of new businesses, the retention and expansion of existing businesses are also crucial elements in Economic Development. We have received word from Economic Development Director Larry Tucker that we have had a success in each of these areas with the 27,000 square foot expansion at Brooks Brothers Trailers in the North Troy Industrial Park and the retention of Con-Tech Truss, which was contemplating a move elsewhere, but chose instead to build a new facility off Highway K near Briscoe. Both of these projects mean more, good jobs for the residents of the County. Nice work by Larry and his assistant Julie Rodgers.
• We continue to work on the 911 Dispatch issue. The Commission recently notified all entities of their Dispatch and Warrant Processing rates for next year. The County is again offering these services at a rate less than actual cost by crediting everyone with a portion of the 911 landline tax. These funds are intended to support 911 only, but using them to help fire/ambulance/police offset their Dispatch fees was the right decision to make to keep costs as low as possible.
That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – September 11, 2017

I vividly remember where I was when the September 11 attacks occurred. The shock and horror of that day should be indelibly etched in the minds of everyone. We can take pride in the fact that evil dealt our country a formidable blow, and while the Twin Towers are no longer standing, AMERICA IS!

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• We have received our independent auditor’s report for the 2016 Fiscal Year. The report is available at lcclerk.com under the Clerk’s Office tab. An audit is a good opportunity to learn and improve, and this year is no exception as the auditor noted a “significant deficiency” in the preparation of our Schedule of Expenditures of Federal Awards (SEFA) report. The procedures to rectify this deficiency have already been implemented, and I am confident that the situation is under control moving forward. Preparation of the SEFA report will continue to be a focus, as the County is aggressively pursuing, and receiving, grant funds from a variety of sources at unprecedented rates.
• The favorable weather has allowed our road crews to accomplish a great deal in the past weeks. As you move about the County you should notice the results of our efforts. Removing trees from blind corners (North Chantilly Rd.), cutting down dangerous hills (Sugar Grove Rd.), and replacing outdated culverts (Quarry Rd.) are just a few of the tasks upon which we are focused. As we look to expand our paved road inventory in the future, many of these seemingly minor changes are prerequisites to the paving process.
• Our thoughts and prayers are with the folks affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Compared to the damage we are seeing on the news, our flood damage from 2015 pales in comparison. We are two years removed from our disaster and still working to recover our funds from FEMA. In light of our experience and the recent revelation that FEMA is almost out of money, I am hopeful that we get what we are entitled to and that the hurricane victims are not left out in the cold. Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer and his staff have been extremely helpful in our efforts to sort out the bureaucratic maze of FEMA.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – August 28, 2017

Commission work, like any job, has its highs and lows. My philosophy is to focus on achieving positive results and letting that overpower the inevitable negativity. This serves me well for about 360 days of the year, with the other 5 being a source of minor frustration at various intervals. I must confess that I let the negativity win the day a couple times last week, but I am happy to report that a pleasant weekend has me back on top and focused on making positive things happen.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• The Commission took action to keep the 911 Dispatch operations on firm financial footing. 2018 Dispatch rates for fire, ambulance, and municipal police were approved today based upon a budget of $1.3 million which is about $50,000 less than last year. The reduction was achieved through a little belt tightening and some debt reduction. Fortunately, none of the reductions are related to staffing. To the contrary, the 2018 budget includes the addition of two additional dispatchers over the course of the fiscal year. While a few entities will experience a significant rate increase, most will see only a minor increase, while others will see a reduction in expenses. At the end of the day, all entities will pay in proportion to services they use, which has been a goal for years. Dispatch requires a significant investment in both labor and equipment. This investment is further complicated by advances in technology, which requires frequent upgrades to equipment, often with a hefty price tag. We are moving in a positive direction, and I plan to build on that momentum.
• The Commission also voted to move forward on a trade of funds with St. Louis County within the Federal Bridge Program (BRO). Once this trade is complete, we will be in position to build 2-3 bridges using our program balances to do the projects with $0 of local cash required. Again, positive momentum on which we intend to capitalize.
• Property tax levies have been set, and, as expected, the rates have been rolled back due to the increased assessed valuation. General Revenue for 2017 is .1900 which is down from .2090, and Road and Bridge is .2421 which is down from .2657.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – August 21, 2017

Well, we survived the eclipse. I have not heard how other areas closer to the action fared, but I’m sure it was a welcome influx of tourism dollars.
A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• On Thursday, August 24 at 6:30, the Warren County Republican Central Committee is hosting Sen. Bill Eigel (R-St. Charles) at Oliver’s Restaurant in Warrenton (289 W. Veterans Memorial Parkway) to answer the question, “Does Jefferson City Really Need More Money to Address Roads and Bridges in Missouri?” Sen. Eigel will no doubt talk about SB457 which he filed last session as an answer to the MODOT funding question. I will be attending with Commissioners from adjoining counties to express our strong opposition to SB457. This “solution” is really nothing more than an attempt by the State legislature to abdicate a portion of their responsibility for State roads by passing that responsibility to Counties. With this “solution,” Lincoln County would be called upon to maintain 77.89 miles of State lettered routes that are not eligible for Federal-aid money. This represents a 16% increase in our road inventory, and more importantly, a 52% increase in our paved road inventory. These figures do not account for bridges, culverts, and countless other structures. Contrary to Sen. Eigel’s claim that this measure would not create more taxes for the citizens of Missouri, it would only shift the burden of finding the solution to a STATE problem onto the shoulders of Counties. Keep in mind that Counties are already required to house State prisoners for little more than half the cost of the housing. How many more State issues do the folks in Jefferson City plan to dump on the County while they continue to engage in petty squabbles and fail to work for the people of Missouri? Kicking the can down the road is not a solution. I hope some of you will join us in Warrenton.
• 911 Dispatch was front-page news in the Journal this week. Unfortunately, the Journal has again failed to do any fact checking prior to running an article. Contrary to a statement attributed to a member of the Silex Board of Aldermen, the response time for their calls is not “45 minutes to an hour.” This is, in fact, a gross exaggeration. The average call response time, from the time of the call to the time of dispatch, has averaged 1.45 minutes over the last 3 years. I am saddened that our local paper so willingly prints disparaging remarks without verifying the validity of same.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – August 14, 2017

Summer keeps flying by and we are enjoying some atypical weather for the month of August. I for one have no complaints of the below normal temps. Kids are getting back to school and our road crews are still out working on projects, so I encourage everyone to be extra cautious in their travels.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• On August 3, 2017, we hosted our appreciation lunch for County employees. The meal is paid for with the proceeds from our soda/snack vending machines and offers all employees the opportunity to enjoy some BBQ and get to know other employees that work in other operations. County Clerk Crystal Hall takes care of the details, Election Supervisor Mike Kreuger shows off his culinary skills, and elected officials and the rest of the clerk’s staff serve/clean up. This is just a small expression of our appreciation for the great job our employees do in their various capacities.
• We are currently hiring at our Road and Bridge Department for a variety of positions. The unseasonably fair weather has helped us to accomplish a number of projects, and while some may see this as an opportunity to take a little break before fall, we see this as a chance to continue moving forward. We are even making some preliminary preparation for 2018 projects. Our focus remains CONSISTENT IMPROVEMENT and we need more willing workers, so if you know someone looking for a good, steady career have them stop by our shop at 219 Highway H in Troy to fill out an application.
• We have begun our calculations for 2017 tax levies, and as expected, preliminary indications are that the rates will be rolled back to offset a portion of the valuation increases. While there are a number of statutes that make me scratch my head, the laws governing the setting of tax levies are an effective system of checks and balances to prevent governments from engaging in wholesale pillaging when it comes to the taxation of real and personal property.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – August 7, 2017

There is a busy writing schedule for me this week. In addition to this piece and my other normal writing chores, I am also preparing a few remarks for my Mother’s birthday party which we will celebrate this Saturday. I can knock this County piece out in about 30 minutes most weeks, but doing justice to Mother’s 85 years of dedication to faith and family is going to be a challenge. Wish me luck!

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• We have been working on our future bridge construction plans and the financing challenges that go along with large projects such as this. Fortunately, we maintain a strong position within the Federal Bridge Program (BRO) and continue to leverage local dollars to enable us to build 2 bridges with only the cost of 1 coming out of pocket. Our conservative approach has enabled us to take full advantage of the BRO program. I encourage folks to catch me sometime so I can share the success story of our involvement in the program.
• Commissioner Mueller is seven months into the job and he is getting along well. Both he and Commissioner Bass are very accessible and attentive to resident concerns. Unfortunately, many of the issues they field have already been through the coffee shop, various forms of social media, and assorted other outlets before they make it to the proverbial “horse’s mouth” for the truth. After almost 7 years in office, I am unfortunately accustomed to seeing simple events pass through the aforementioned avenues before becoming a full blown conspiracy theory, only to be refuted upon a review of the facts. If you have a question about the Commission, call a Commissioner. We are all accessible and all love to talk about the things that are happening in Lincoln County.
• We expect to have the 2016 final audit report from Daniel Jones and Associates soon. When we have that in hand, we will get it on the website and address any issues that are contained therein. I will discuss the results in greater detail when the full report is in hand.
• Did you know that the Lincoln County Commission has the authority to set speed limits on County roads, but not on private roads? If a County road does not have a posted limit, the limit is 55mph. Speeding in subdivisions and on other private roads is a growing issue that will require a modification in our statutory authority at the State level to begin tackling the problem.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – July 31, 2017

While I enjoyed my vacation in the mountains of Colorado, it is great to be back in Missouri. The first day back to work after any absence is always a bit of a challenge, but I am back in the groove and once again ready to get down to business.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• Some years ago, I had a conversation with my pastor and he mentioned that the one thing he disliked most about his job was Bob. Before I could inquire as to what this man had done, he told me that Bob was an acronym: Burden Of Buildings. Pastors sign on to preach the Gospel, but often spend a great deal of their time working on facility issues. While Commissioners are not called upon to preach the Gospel, the job focus tends toward finances and road/bridge matters, but occasionally turns to BOB. Working on buildings, especially older buildings, often presents extraordinary situations that can be humbling to say the least. In spite of our best efforts to be proactive in caring for County buildings, projects that seem routine at the beginning can often turn out to be the proverbial can of worms as work progresses. We are currently working to bring our Fire Panels up to date in 3 buildings, and what started out as a straightforward project has evolved into a clear cut case of BOB. Fortunately, we have capable staff that are working diligently with contractors and providing the Commission with the information needed to make prudent decisions. I love my job, but I can honestly say that I don’t care much for BOB.
• The Commission had its monthly meeting with Sheriff Cottle this week. Solid Federal prisoner numbers coupled with strong sales tax revenues has the Sheriff in a strong position just past the mid-year point. Law Enforcement funding is a tough undertaking statewide, and the taxpayers of Lincoln County are fortunate to have Sheriff Cottle in charge of the operation.
• We have moved one step closer to putting the 2015 Floods behind us. The Commission entered into the final 3 contracts to make the remaining bridge repairs. Net result is that our bridge inventory will be in good shape moving forward, and our funding will be freed up to make needed improvements to our system by adding hard surface roads to our inventory.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – July 17, 2017

No writer’s block this week, as there has been a lot of activity since my last update. In a time when negativity seems to rule the day, it is a pleasant relief to report some good news.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• Thanks to the cooperative efforts of Jay Gourley and Blanche Kelly of our Project Management office and our Emergency Management director Emma Epplin-Birdsell, I am happy to announce that the County has been approved for a $1.5 million Hazard Mitigation project which will combine $380,000 of local funds with $1,120,000 in FEMA funds to replace 8 dangerous low-water crossings with either a bridge or a concrete box culvert. These crossings, some of which require a driver to take their vehicle directly into the creek bed, present a danger that only gets worse when there is flooding. This is a huge win for Lincoln County and we are excited to get these projects underway later this year.
• Progress continues on the remaining 2015 flood projects. Aubuchon and Dickerman Roads will soon be re-opened and we award the last three contracts for flood-related bridge repairs tomorrow. In addition to all of these flood projects and our normal summertime activities, the Road and Bridge Department tackled an emergency situation on Mansion Rd. With minimal interruption to local traffic, our crews demolished and replaced a rapidly deteriorating culvert that was constructed many decades ago of hand laid stone. Job well done.
• Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the City Council meeting in Moscow Mills and Elsberry to discuss dispatching costs. I am happy to announce that we were able to at least temporarily resolve some of our issues. Let me stress that, contrary to what the media reports, our 911 service is not in jeopardy. The ongoing discussion centers on dispatch costs and warrant processing fees for municipal police, fire, and ambulance. Until we get some relief at the State level to allow us to try to pass a nominal fee on cellular phones like the other 49 States, it is up to us to manage escalating costs locally. Based on my experience in Moscow Mills and Elsberry last week, I can assure you that we are blessed with dedicated colleagues who share our commitment to do what is best for all of the residents of Lincoln County.
• There will be no update next week as I will be out of town with my family on our annual baseball trip. Destination: Denver!!

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – July 10, 2017

Writing has been one of my favorite pastimes since I was a youngster, but I have to confess that I occasionally suffer from a bout of writer’s block. At times, I feel like I am beating the proverbial dead horse. This week I will try to delve into a few subjects that don’t come up very often, which a few of you will hopefully find informative.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• With the temperatures soaring into the upper 90s I doubt many of you are thinking about snow, but this time of year is prime time for making preparations for the upcoming winter. For several years now, we have been pre-treating paved roads with a salt brine solution when snow and ice are in the forecast. The process has proven effective in preventing precipitation from sticking to the road surface and also makes plowing more effective as well. We are pleased enough with the results that our plans include the addition of a second unit to spread the brine, as well as the completion of improvements to our mixing system to increase the efficiency with which we get the solution down.
• The Missouri Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the Lincoln County Commission in an appeal that had been brought by 45th Judicial Circuit Judge Chris Kunza Mennemeyer. The original decision, made by the Judicial Finance Commission, upheld the County Commission’s assertion that the Circuit’s 2016 Budget request was unreasonable. After several months of deliberation, the Supreme Court upheld that decision.
• Renovations will begin soon to the columns on the front porch of the Courthouse. These are the original columns from 1870, and are just the latest phase in our plans to maintain the building, while making every attempt to be historically accurate in our efforts. We are currently working with our historical architect, nForm Architecture, to create a Master Plan for the courthouse that will be a useful tool when pursuing grant funding through the State Historical Preservation office. There are a number of architectural features that appeared on the original structure, but fell by the wayside over time. The architects are working with local historians and reviewing old photos to aid in the preparation of this exciting plan.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – July 3, 2017

It’s been a short week due to the Independence Day, but there has been no shortage of activity around the Courthouse. I hope everyone has been able to relax and enjoy the many freedoms we enjoy in this country, not the least of which is our independence.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.

  • I’m sure many of you are growing weary of all of the asphalt talk of late, but a question was posed that I think might be of interest. Why are asphalt prices higher this year, when gas prices have remained steady?  Our asphalt prices have indeed risen over 30% in some cases when compared to last year.  Each year the County bids hot-mix asphalt with the prices tied to the MODOT asphalt cost index, which in turn is applied to the asphalt content in each vendor’s mix design.  By indexing the product, we are afforded a degree of price protection in the event of price fluctuations.  In periods of rising asphalt prices, we are insulated from wholesale price increases based only on demand.  The price increases are limited to those allowed by the index.  During periods of falling asphalt prices, indexing allows us to capture price reductions which we otherwise would not recognize.  Asphalt is still an expensive proposition, but indexing is a useful tool in budgeting and cost control.
  • We should soon receive the final audit report for fiscal year 2016 and we are currently engaged in an audit “checkup” of our internal control policies and fraud risk assessment procedures. Auditing, both internal and external, is a valuable tool to measure how well we are complying with the laws set forth. Based on the results of these audits, we will make adjustments to continue to make our local government accountable to the taxpayers.
  • 911 Dispatch fees are again in the news and unfortunately, much of what is being presented by the media is not supported by the facts. The County continues to charge other entities less than the cost to provide the service and the County does not profit from the operation of the Dispatch center.  Dispatch Center director Captain Pirtle and I spend time each week brainstorming ways to trim costs from the budget. I encourage everyone, particularly those of you that live within a municipality, to give me or Captain Pirtle a call to talk about this matter.

That’s all I have time for now.  As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions.  Until next week…

Dan Colbert

Presiding Commissioner

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